Vintage swimwear: Stunning 1940s Cole of California bikini (maybe?)

Vintage swimwear: Stunning 1940s Cole of California advert

Isn’t this wonderful? The illustration is just gorgeous, but is this the vintage swimwear in this Cole of California advert actually a swimsuit or a bikini? I’m not sure.

The text reads: 

Streamline – beautiful new backsweep… in a Lastex swimsuit… from Cole’s “Westward to the Sea” beachwear collection. 

So no clues there! The ad is taken from ‘The Californian’ magazine from February 1947, which seems a bit early for a bikini. Any ideas?


9 thoughts on “Vintage swimwear: Stunning 1940s Cole of California bikini (maybe?)

  1. Dirk

    Hi Mary, it could be a bikini since Cole seems to have produced other two-piece swimsuits in 1947 (or maybe this just another picture of the one in the ad) :

    The first modern bikinis date from 1946 in France : “The modern bikini was introduced by French engineer Louis Réard and separately by fashion designer Jacques Heim in Paris in 1946. Réard was a car engineer but by 1946 he was running his mother’s lingerie boutique near Les Folies Bergère in Paris.[50] Heim was working on a new kind of beach costume. It comprised two pieces, the bottom large enough to cover its wearer’s navel. In May 1946, he advertised it as the world’s “smallest bathing suit”. Réard sliced the top off the bottoms and advertised it as “smaller than the smallest swimsuit”.[51][52] The idea struck him when he saw women rolling up their beachwear to get a better tan.[5]”

    • vilvintage Post author

      Ah it could be the same one couldn’t it? I head that Louis Reard’s bikini was advertised saying a two piece isn’t a true bikini unless it can pass through a wedding ring (which sounds pretty tiny to me!) This is a test for you then, when did bikini styles first start going below the navel…? :)

    • vilvintage Post author

      Hi Daisy
      Is it the image in my blog post, or in the link that Dirk posted that you can’t see?

    • vilvintage Post author

      Doh! I should have known that, I did a post about that bikini a while back. Apparently the print on the fabric was newsprint in anticipation of all the news coverage that Reard knew it would get. He couldn’t get a conventional model to model it because it was so tiny, so the girl modelling it was a Parisienne nude dancer. Oh, and it was a g-string too (see this pic: ), which I find pretty shocking for the time, no wonder the usual models were hesitant about it!

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